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A Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer has been placed in a “non-contact status” and is being investigated after wearing a T-shirt allegedly containing a racist symbol and messages of police brutality.
According to NBC Washington, the department launched an investigation into officer Vincent Altieri after the law group Law4BlackLives, which supports the Black Lives Matter movement, filed a complaint with the department regarding Altieri’s brandishing of the shirt.
According to photographs provided in the complaint, the shirt displays Altieri’s badge number on the front. On the back, the shirt depicts a Grim Reaper posed in front of the D.C. flag while holding the MPD logo in one hand and a rifle in another. The Reaper is flanked by the initials “MP” and “DC.”
The flag’s message above and below the Reaper, “Powershift, Seventh district,” contains a Celtic cross on the “O” in “powershift,” a symbol of white supremacy used by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. The law group clarifies that “powershift” appears to depict the officer’s assigned shift, as well as “seventh district” being his assigned district.
According to Law4BlackLives, a message directly under the Reaper, “Let me see that waistband jo,” refers to “jump outs,” a more aggressive stop-and-frisk tactic used to target men of color.
“This phrase refers to MPD officers’ routine practice of demanding to see the waistbands of individuals, disproportionately young black men, often without reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed or involved in any criminal activity,” reads the complaint.
The complaint also contained screenshots of Altieri’s Facebook page, upon which he posted images with pro-police Blue Lives Matter messaging. One illustration showed a skull with the lower half of its face covered by a black and blue U.S. flag bandana with the copy, “I hunt the evil you pretend doesn’t exist.”
According to the complaint, Altieri was seen and photographed wearing the shirt on June 2, then seen again wearing the shirt on June 5 and June 13 at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse. On June 5, several other MPD officers were allegedly “observed commenting on and complimenting Officer Altieri’s shirt,” the complaint reads.
Law4BlackLives asserted in the complaint that Altieri violated several MPD policies and the D.C. Human Rights Act and that several MPD officers violated department general orders by failing to notify supervisors of Altieri’s shirt. Online, the law group has started a petition for MPD to fire Altieri, as well as officers who failed to report his actions. As of this writing, the shirt has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.
“This shirt is offensive and indicates systemic bias in the policing of people of color. White supremacy and insinuated threats of death should never be associated with or tolerated in police departments who are sworn to protect and serve. Such ideologies are dangerous and demonstrate a blatant disregard for Black and Brown life,” the law group wrote in the petition. “The shirt stands alone as an affront to the community.”
MPD issued a statement Friday saying it’s aware of the allegations and is initiating an investigation, denouncing the shirt and denying that the shirt represents the department’s values.
“We understand the trust of the community is critical to our ongoing work and take seriously any incidents that may undermine the confidence the community has in our members,” the statement, tweeted by Washington Post reporter Radley Balko, reads. “The involved member has been placed in a non-contact status pending the outcome of the investigation.”
However, Balko’s tweet reported that defense attorneys have said they’ve seen other MPD cops wear the shirt in question, including in court.
Meanwhile, Peter Newsham, the MPD police chief tweeted Friday that Altieri’s donning of the shirt doesn’t represent the Seventh District officers.
This is disgraceful and does not represent the hard working and committed officers of the Seventh District. https://t.co/7FfJfuGW0L— Peter Newsham (@pnewsham2) July 28, 2017
View the entire complaint filed by Law4BlackLives below:
H/T the Root
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.